PR 01410.023 Maryland
A. PR 06-018 Parent-Child Relationship Between Vance A. B~, the Number Holder, and Elizabeth N. B~, under Maryland laws.
DATE: November 22, 2005
The claimant, adopted by her paternal grandparents, no longer may inherit from the deceased number holder as does not qualify as his child under Maryland law.
On October 21, 2005, you asked us whether a parent-child relationship existed between Vance A. B~, the Number Holder (NH) who died on July 30, 2005, and Elizabeth N. B~ (SSN: ~) such that Elizabeth is entitled to surviving child's benefits despite her adoption during the lifetime of the NH. You also asked for the effective date of the parent-child relationship, if it exists.
Based on our review of the facts of this case and our research of the relevant Maryland statutes and case law, we have determined that a parent-child relationship did not exist between the NH and Elizabeth for purposes of entitlement to surviving child benefits.
According to the information you provided, Elizabeth was born in Wicomico, Maryland on December 20, 1997. Her birth certificate indicates that the NH is her natural father and Holly M. M~ is her natural mother. The applications for a social security number, completed on January 23, 1998 and February 19, 1999 indicate that Holly M. M~ is Elizabeth's mother and her father is shown as unknown.
On November 29, 2001, in the Circuit Court for Somerset County in the State of Maryland, Darvin L. B~, the paternal grandfather, and Simone M. B~, his wife, adopted Elizabeth. At this point, Elizabeth's name became Elizabeth N. M~ B~.
Elizabeth's birth record issued on December 6, 2001, after her adoption, indicates that Darvin L. B~ is her father and Simone M. D~ is her mother. An application for a social security number completed on January 9, 2002 indicates that Holly M. M~ is Elizabeth's mother and the NH is her father.
The NH was a resident of Salisbury, Maryland when he died on July 30, 2005. He lived with Elizabeth and her adoptive parents, but there is no documented proof of support. All financial support came from the adoptive parents.
The Social Security Act provides that, in determining whether an applicant is the child of an insured individual, the Commissioner will apply the inheritance law of the state in which the individual was domiciled at the time the application was filed or, if the insured individual is dead, of the state in which the insured individual was domiciled at the time of his death. Section 216(h)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(2)(A). Because the NH was domiciled in Maryland at the time of his death, Maryland intestacy law applies.
You have specifically asked whether Elizabeth's adoption cut off her inheritance rights to the NH's estate. The Maryland intestacy statute addressing the inheritance rights between an adopted individual and her natural relatives indicates, "all rights of inheritance between the individual adopted and the natural relatives shall be governed by the Estates and Trusts Article." MD. Code Ann., Family Law § 5-308(b)(3) (West 2005).
The Estates and Trusts Article indicates, in part:
(a) An adopted child shall be treated as a natural child of his adopting parent or parents. On adoption, a child no longer shall be considered a child of either natural parent, except that upon adoption by the spouse of a natural parent, the child shall still be considered the child of that natural parent.
MD. Code Ann., Estates and Trusts § 1-207(a) (West 2005). The Maryland courts have interpreted this statute to mean that an adopted child shall lose her rights of inheritance from her natural parents and her natural collateral or lineal relatives. Hall v. Vallandingham, 540 A.2d 1162, 1164 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1988).
The Hall court noted:
[t]o construe Est. & Trusts Art. §1-207(a) so as to allow dual inheritance would bestow upon an adopted child a superior status. That status was removed in Laws 1963, Ch. 174 which, as we have said, expressly disallowed the dual inheritance capability of adopted children . . .
Id. Hence, under Maryland state law, an adopted child may not inherit from or through her natural parents.
According to POMS GN 00306.165, a natural or legally adopted child of the NH who was adopted by another person during the NH's lifetime is the NH's child for benefit purposes only if:
the adoption did not cut off the child's inheritance rights in the NH's estate under applicable State law; and the NH was living with or contributing to the child's support at one of the points set forth in GN 00306.007 or GN 00306.008.
Therefore, in order for Elizabeth to be considered the NH's child for benefit purposes, she must meet the two prongs in the above quoted POMS.
The first prong requires that the state intestacy law not cut off the child's inheritance rights in the NH's estate. As analyzed above, under Maryland law, Elizabeth may not inherit from the NH's estate because she was adopted during his lifetime. MD. Code Ann., Estates and Trusts § 1-207(a) (West 2005). Therefore, the first prong of POMS GN 00306.165 is not met. Thus, we recommend that Elizabeth not be considered the NH's child for purposes of § 216(h)(2)(A).
For the above reasons, we conclude that a parent-child relationship has not been established between the NH and Elizabeth given the inheritance laws in the state of Maryland.
Donna L. C~
Regional Chief Counsel, Region V
Quinn N. D~
Assistant Regional Counsel